mxmtoon | Texas Review | Ralph Arvesen
mxmtoon performing at Emo's Austin in Austin, Texas on July 8, 2024. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

The world first encountered Maia as a 17-year-old singer armed with a ukulele and the now-famous screen name: mxmtoon. In 2017, she began sharing covers of popular songs and her own catchy, confessional tunes from the guest bedroom of her parents' California home. These songs candidly captured the tribulations of her teenage years—dating, online socializing, and offline loneliness.

A queer teen of mixed Chinese, German, and Scottish heritage, Maia's honest and memorable music resonated with many, making mxmtoon a streaming sensation and a new voice in the bedroom pop scene. Her 2019 debut album, "the masquerade," recorded in a professional studio, marked her as a symbol of the growing representation and inclusion in American pop music. When her song “prom dress” became a hit, Maia was still in her teens.

In reality, only five years have passed since Maia began posting her self-made songs and videos, yet at least two of those years felt like decades, filled with significant challenges and growth.

Her second album, "rising," is a bold and compelling 12-song collection that reflects on the tough lessons of recent years and aims to push forward with triumphant pop-and-disco confessionalism. Songs like "mona lisa," "scales," and "dance (end of the world)" extend personal experiences into acts of communal solidarity, acknowledging the shared struggles and offering a collective outlet through music.

At the end of 2019, Maia had just completed her first full tour as mxmtoon, feeling inspired by her career prospects and life ahead. She planned to release two new EPs, perform more shows, and move to New York to join her brother. However, the pandemic brought her back to her parents' home, where she struggled to return to her old writing habits. The loss of her grandfather to leukemia and then her grandmother, along with the stress of the pandemic, elections, protests, and violence, left her feeling stuck and unable to write much in 2020.

Despite these challenges, Maia found her way back through "sad disco," a solo dance party inspired by ABBA records that comforted her during the difficult year. This track, with its fluorescent synthesizers and tessellated drums, captures the isolation and comfort of dancing and singing along when bored and alone. "sad disco" is a revelation for mxmtoon, showcasing her storytelling depth and unapologetic love for disco, turning music into a rescue mission.

"rising" continues from this premise, with mxmtoon’s signature vulnerability supported by a newfound musical vibrancy and strength. These songs, as Maia describes, are what she wished existed when she was a struggling teen. They serve as survival manuals for young people, disguised as magnetic pop.

Tracks like "growing pains," "dance (end of the world)," and "learning to love you" transform personal and collective challenges into uplifting anthems. Even in more mellow moments like "florida" and "dizzy," Maia’s music retains its poignant intimacy and emotional depth.

For Maia, "rising" completes an unintended trilogy that includes her 2020 EPs, "dawn" and "dusk." While "rising" continues the era of rapid musical growth for mxmtoon, these twelve songs represent definitive steps forward. They are just as inventive, honest, and unguarded musically as Maia has always been lyrically.

This album is the music Maia needed to create and hear after years that felt like decades, and it speaks to others who may need it too. These songs argue that growth is continuous and that rising is just one of many new beginnings. As she declares in "coming of age," the closing track of "rising," “The old me was OK, but I think it’s time for something new.” And from the sound of it, Maia delights in this rebirth.
Fan reviews:

Such a fun time! She was so interactive with the crowd and I even got some questions asked by her! Absolutely amazing artist and performer. Much love!

Best show ever! Her music is so elevated when you see it live. She is an awesome performer and had a great light set up. It is still my favorite show I’ve ever been to and I went to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

Amazing time! This concert was amazing. I binged mxmtoon's discography, and wow, what a great decision. I would definitely go see mxmtoon again.

Mxmtoon is an absolutely amazing artist and she is an amazing performer. The lighting was amazing, her audience interactions were impeccable, and she sounded angelic. No way to go wrong seeing her in concert, would highly recommend.

Best time ever! I had so much fun at the mxmtoon concert, it was one of the best shows I have been to. It made me so happy to see my favorite artist live in concert.

Amazing! She was very interactive and loved to talk to us. She is truest amazing and talented.
Setlist for the show at Emo's Austin
  • fever dream
  • frown
  • seasonal depression
  • prom dress
  • sad disco
  • i hate texas
  • ok on your own
  • dance (end of the world)
  • coming of age
  • mona lisa

mxmtoon was the main act at Emo's Austin with guests Nep. They continue across the United States and Mexico with the last stop at the Corona Capital Festival in Mexico city, Mexico on November 15, 2024.

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Photos by Ralph Arvesen
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